A former UCLA obstetrician-gynecologist who worked for many years at the university’s student health center pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he sexually battered two patients.
James Heaps, 62, was arraigned at the Airport Courthouse on two counts of sexual battery by fraud and one count of sexual exploitation of a patient, according to the District Attorney’s Office and a court spokeswoman.
Heaps, who is not in custody, was ordered to return to court on June 26, when a date is expected to be set for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
UCLA issued a statement from Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor John Mazziotta citing “a profound sense of sadness” about the “distressing information.”
“Dr. Heaps was an obstetrician-gynecologist who worked on a part-time basis at the UCLA student health center from approximately 1983 to 2010, was hired by UCLA Health in 2014 and held medical staff privileges at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from 1988 to 2018. We understand that these charges relate to care he provided to two patients in 2017 and 2018 at UCLA Health,” according to the statement.
“Last year, in response to allegations of sexual misconduct against Dr. Heaps, UCLA investigated his conduct, removed him from clinical practice, informed him that his employment was being terminated (after which he announced he was retiring) and reported him to the Medical Board of California and law enforcement,” the statement continued.
UCLA officials could not immediately be reached for comment regarding whether any prior disclosure of the complaints against Heaps had been made to students.
An arrest warrant was filed for Heaps on May 22, and UCLA said he surrendered to authorities.
UCLA said it initiated a review in March of the university’s response to sexual misconduct in clinical settings and promised transparency and accountability in the process. The committee leading the effort includes Block; Joanne Corday Kozberg, a former UC regent who served as California secretary of state and consumer services in the administration of then-Gov. Pete Wilson; Carlos Moreno, a former California Supreme Court justice; and Lori Pelliccioni, a former UC regent and former assistant U.S. attorney with 25 years of experience in the health care industry.
The university urged patients with complaints about Heaps to contact Praesidium, a firm with experience connecting patients with support services, at 888-961-9273.
“Our responsibility to our patients is of paramount importance to us. We are committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure their well-being and maintaining the confidence and trust of the broader UCLA community,” the university’s statement read.
Across town, the University of Southern California has agreed to pay out $215 million to patients who filed complaints against Dr. George Tyndall, a gynecologist at the school’s student health center who is accused of sexually abusive behavior dating back decades.
In February, USC announced it would institute campus-wide reforms to prevent and report sexual and racial misconduct under terms of the settlement agreement related to Tyndall.
In that case, the private university did not report the findings to the Medical Board of California, despite a review by a medical consulting firm concluding the doctor’s pelvic exams were inappropriate, that he showed a preference for Asian students and had potential mental health problems, including “underlying psychopathy.”
Tyndall ultimately resigned with an undisclosed financial payout that attorneys for some alleged victims say amounted to a cover-up.
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